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Coastline profiles of ‘Ata, Tongatapu en ‘Eua in Tonga


Coastline profiles of ‘Ata, Tongatapu en ‘Eua in Tonga

Gilsemans, Isaac

In early January 1643, after passing New Zealand’s North Island and the Three Kings Islands, the expedition of Abel Tasman sailed northeast for two weeks before encountering land again. They had reached the islands that today are part of Tonga. On 19 January the Zeehaen and Heemskerck sighted an island what Tasman in his journal described as resembling women’s breasts. They hoped to find fresh provisions there, but were unable to approach due to prevailing weather conditions. On account of the large number of tropicbirds they saw, the island was named ‘Pijlstaarteiland’, after the Dutch name for these birds at the time. Today the island is called ‘Ata and is part of Tonga. Sailing onwards, on 20 January the expedition encountered two larger islands. These were Tongatapu, which Tasman named Amsterdam and ‘Eua, which was named Middelburg. The expedition did not attempt to land at the latter island, but anchored at the northwest coast of Tongatapu. Here they would remain anchored for several days while enjoying a friendly meeting with the local population and finally succeeded in restocking their supplies of fresh water and fruits and vegetables.

Isaac Gilsemans, supercargo on board the Zeehaen, drew these coastline profiles of Pijlstaart Island (‘Ata), Amsterdam (Tongatapu) and Middelburg (‘Eua) in Abel Tasman’s diary. The top panel depicts Pijlstaart Island. The left part of the panel shows the island as seen at 6 miles distance when it is in east-northeast direction. The right part shows the same island when it is east-southeast at 3 miles distance. The following two panels depict the landscape of Amsterdam when it is at 3 miles distance in east-northeast direction. The bottom panel shows Middelburg when it is east by south at 4 miles distance.

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Sources and literature

Posthumus Meyjes, De Reizen van Abel Janszoon Tasman en Franchoys Jacobszoon Visscher, ter nadere ontdekking van het Zuidland (Australië) in 1642 - 1644. (1919)